I was going to make this chapter longer, which is why it took so long, but I ended up deciding that it would be preferable for me to update now and deal with the rest later. It's the end of the school year, so with finals coming up...well, my life's been hell. Enjoy.
14. Celebrations and Exterminations
Rukia had truly thought a party would be good for Ichigo, that he'd get to loosen up a little, but that really seemed to not be the case at all.
The orange-haired bastard was obstinately refusing to take part in the festivities, instead choosing to sulk in a corner.
She was tempted to go over and kick him in the head, cover be damned.
Ichigo's moodiness was affecting her more than it should have. She should just ignore the damn strawberry and enjoy herself.
'Or you could go over there and tell him cheer up or else,' Sode no Shirayuki suggested in a dangerous voice that said "do it or else."
"Why should I?" Rukia murmured.
'Rukia-chan...I will destroy the monument of Chappy in your inner world,' the female zanpakutō threatened.
'Fine! I'll do it, no need to bring Chappy into this,' Rukia said in a placating tone.
She walked over to the berry boy.
The Fifth Division Captain looked up.
"What is it, Rukia?"
"Why don't you enjoy the party?"
"Parties aren't my thing," the boy replied simply.
"Ichigo...enjoy the party or else." The last words Rukia spoke quietly, but forcefully.
Amber eyes met violet ones, and Ichigo sighed.
"If you'll stop nagging. Who are you...Yuzu?"
Rukia frowned as she noticed that even after all these years, Ichigo avoided mention of his mother.
"Maybe I am nagging, but it's for your own good." Rukia hissed.
"That's what they all say," Ichigo replied, before getting up and walking to interact with others at the party.
Absentmindedly, she saw Toshiro engaged in conversation with Kingsley and Lupin. She unobtrusively made her way over to them to eavesdrop, though Toshiro undoubtedly noticed her. He was a Captain, after all.
"...why Dumbledore didn't make Potter a prefect?" Kingsley was asking.
"I'm sure he had his reasons," Lupin said faithfully.
"But it would've shown confidence in him. It's what I'd've done," persisted Kingsley, "'specially with the Daily Prophet having a go at him every few days..."
Rukia noticed movement from the doorway, and saw Harry rush off.
As she moved around the conversing group to follow, she heard Toshiro reply.
"From what I've heard, they're having gos at Dumbledore as well. Who's to say that they'd actually respect his opinion? After all, birds of a feather stick together. If they think that Harry and Dumbledore are both mad, then Dumbledore expressing faith in Harry wouldn't do anything to change that opinion..."
Rukia heard no more as she had left the room.
Ichigo approached Moody as he was sniffing a chicken leg, as if checking for poison.
"I doubt Molly poisoned the food, Mad-Eye," Ichigo teased, sitting down next to the Auror.
"I know Rukia and Toshiro are like you. Knew from the second I saw them, but I couldn't confirm it until the girl appeared before me as one of your kind. Didn't help that Dumbledore hid it from me."
Ichigo's mouth twitched, "Right to the point, huh?"
Moody grunted, "I wasn't going to interrogate you about...not here, anyway. But considering what you are, would you like to spend the night sharing war stories with an old veteran?"
Ichigo hesitated. Some of the things he had seen...but then again...
"Fine. But I'll keep a few to myself," Ichigo agreed.
Moody seemed not to mind this, "I think you'll find this one interesting, it's about my team of Aurors storming one of the Dark Lord's bases, and we managed to capture a few Death Eaters. We got wind of it from an informant, who was later killed by the very Death Eaters he had reported, of course it was dangerous to be an informant in those days..."
Moody went on the tell of a failed spying mission that escalated into an all-out duel with the Death Eaters. "We won, but at a heavy price. Dwayne, Rhonda and Camilla were all killed, and the Clemens brothers lost their minds. I lost a chunk of my nose in that fight," here Moody gestured to his nose, which was indeed missing a piece.
At that moment, Harry came into the room. Moody's attention suddenly wavered.
"I'll be back, but Dumbledore asked me to show Mr. Potter something," Moody explained as he made his way towards Harry.
'He truly is an interesting human,' Shiro commented.
'Yes. After his death, he would make a fine officer of the Gotei 13,' Zangetsu added.
'Assuming he wants to become a Shinigami,' Shiro pointed out.
'From what I've seen of his personality, he will want to continue fighting the evil things in life, even after death. Furthermore, he seems to have gained a new-found respect for Ichigo after learning of his Shinigami status.'
Suddenly, Ichigo burst out laughing. 'If he does become a Shinigami, I call dibs.' the Captain announced to his partners.
Mrs. Weasley gave him a strange look before yawning and announcing that she'd better sort out the boggart before she went to sleep.
Sirius had just called Moody away from a disturbed Harry, and Ichigo had greeted them near the entrance to the kitchen.
But Harry wasn't paying attention. Those people...including his mother and father...they had been killed. Of course he'd known it from the start, that many people had been killed by Voldemort, but hearing how they'd been killed, seeing their faces...wondering how they could be so happy in the photograph when all that awaited them was death. It was too real to be true.
He crept upstairs, wanting to be alone with his thoughts. But as he reached the first landing, he heard the sound of sobbing coming from the drawing room.
Harry crept into the room, but he was not prepared for the sight which met his eyes.
There, clearly dead, with his throat torn out and lying a pool of his own blood, was Ron Weasley.
"Ron...?" But no, Ron was downstairs, telling Tonks about the Cleansweep that Mrs. Weasley had bought for him as a reward for becoming a prefect.
And kneeling above Ron's body was none other than Mrs. Weasley, who was the source of the sobbing.
"Is something wrong?" Toshiro's voice came from behind Harry.
The young-looking fifth year with snow white hair and turquoise eyes appeared behind Harry. He, too, froze at the sight before him.
However, unlike Harry, he quickly got over his shock, almost as if this were routine, and hurried towards Mrs. Weasley.
"R-r-riddikulus!" the witch gasped.
Ron became Bill, lying spread-eagle on the floor, his neck twisted at an unnatural angle. Toshiro pulled up short. He seemed more confused as to why the bodies changed identities than as to why they were there in the first place.
"R-riddi-dikulus," the woman sobbed.
Mr. Weasley replaced Bill, his glasses askew and his face blue-tinted. Foam was gathered at the corners of his mouth, and his eyes were bloodshot and wide open with panic.
"NO! Ridikkulus...ridikkulus...ridikkulus...RIDIKKULUS! "
Crack. Dead twins. Crack. Dead Percy. Crack. Dead Harry and Hermione. Crack. Dead Toshiro and Rukia...
"Mrs. Weasley, that's ENOUGH!" Toshiro shouted sternly, almost as if he were giving an order to a subordinate. "You're in no frame of mind to continue to use that spell! Let me take over for you!"
Without waiting for her answer, he put himself between Mrs. Weasley and the boggart.
The boggart stood up. It began to morph, and when it stopped, Toshiro was looking at a doppelgängr.
It was perfect replica of Toshiro himself, down to the last messy strand of hair. The only difference was that the fake Toshiro had cruel eyes and a sadistic smirk on his face. The fake Toshiro also had what appeared to be a bloodied sword wrapped in bandages hanging off of his back. From the little of the blade that Harry could see, the blade appeared to be in poor condition, rusted, chipped and dull.
"You're not me," Toshiro said calmly, "Nor will you ever be. Be gone."
Toshiro held out his wand at the boggart, though because of the underage laws he did not use it. However, even as Harry watched, he felt suddenly cold and the boggart stumbled back, as if it had been physically attacked.
"Now go, or I will do something much worse. You're a boggart, right? Then remember this: above all you are still just a living spirit." Toshiro threatened.
The other Toshiro stiffened, but remained smiling, though it had no choice.
Toshiro was confused at first, when he came into the drawing room. And horrified. Ron had been murdered, and he hadn't been able to stop it, even though he had been so close! And now Mrs. Weasley was sobbing in a heartbreaking manner.
But he had just seen Ron downstairs...less than ten minutes ago. How had this happened so fast?
And then Ron turned into Mr. Weasley, and that had thrown Toshiro off. He still wasn't used to the wizarding world.
But after seeing the twins, Percy, Harry, Hermione, himself and Rukia...he realized that it was a boggart. He'd read about them. Magical creatures that embodied your worst fear.
Immediately after his revelation, he pushed himself between the boggart and Mrs. Weasley, knowing that it would stop showing Mrs. Weasley's fear...and show his own fear. But what was he afraid of?
Hollows? No, he had been a Captain for long enough so that nothing short of a Vasto Lorde or an Arrancar would worry him, and the Seireitei had a long-standing alliance with the Arrancar of Hueco Mundo.
Aizen? Once, maybe, but the man was long dead.
Death? No, he'd lived almost two centuries, and on top of that, he was Shinigami. A Death God afraid of death? He wouldn't allow himself to become someone like that.
So when the boggart turned into his worst fear, he wasn't expecting...to see himself.
'I'm scared of myself? Am I really that insecure?'
Suddenly he was reminded of time when, during a mission, he'd released his rage at a Hollow in front of a subordinate and nearly killed the poor man. Since then he'd been careful, but always cautious.
He remembered Gin Ichimaru calling him a frightening child, and saying how he'd have to be careful.
And, most of all, he remembered the distance between him and the other souls of the Rukongai. There had been no laughter. No teasing voices. No snide comments. Just fearful glances, hurried retreats, occasional ambushes designed to kill him...to get rid him...the freak. The ice-cold dragon in the kid's skin.
Yes. He feared his own power, and not without good reason.
"Go." Toshiro rasped once more, staring at the boggart with dangerous eyes. It was not in the boggart's nature to be afraid, but this kid was no ordinary human...he was a freak...! And a dangerous one, at that. The boggart had no desire to end its own existence. And so it fled. Just like Toshiro, who was supposed the victim, had told it to.
"What was that?" Harry's voice reached Toshiro.
"Nothing, Harry. If you took the time to try and talk your way out of things, maybe you wouldn't have to wave your wand every time you're faced with a challenge."
Toshiro, who was still thinking upon his newly discovered fear, simply walked past a bewildered Harry and a non-attentive Mrs. Weasley, who was slowly regaining her composure.
Speaking of which...
"Don't worry, Mrs. Weasley. It was just a boggart..."
Toshiro was walking away from the drawing room when he saw Sirius, Lupin, Ichigo and Mad-Eye racing up the stairs.
"Toshiro! What happened? We heard shouting." Lupin said.
"Just a bit of trouble with the boggart. It didn't go as easily as Mrs. Weasley expected. But it's fine now, Harry's in there with her." Toshiro said calmly, before slipping past them. Ichigo's eyes silently followed the white-haired boy. He'd known Toshiro long enough to see that the older boy Captain was disturbed.
"Would you excuse me?" Ichigo asked quietly, and when Mad-Eye acknowledged him, he dashed off in pursuit of Toshiro.
"Leave me alone, Kurosaki," the ice captain said moodily. "I don't want to deal with you right now. Just leave me to my thoughts."
Ichigo frowned, before sighing and walking away. There was no point arguing with Toshiro when he got like that.
Ichigo realized, quite suddenly, that he was all alone, with no one to observe his actions. Remembering what Rukia told him about Grimmjow's message, the orange-haired Captain looked around, making sure he was completely alone, before climbing out of his body. Putting Kon in his place, Ichigo gave the mod soul orders to stay put and unnoticed, and then went to go deal with his old friend, the Sexta Espada.